The Long Beach Unified School District, California's third largest, and the Teachers Assn. of Long Beach (TALB) reached a tentative agreement late Monday, and the district made the following announcement:
After more than 20 months of negotiations, the Long Beach Unified School District and the Teachers Association of Long Beach have reached a tentative agreement that includes health care cost containment measures. The tentative agreement is subject to ratification by TALB’s members, and then approval by the Board of Education.
The tentative deal will save about $1.5 million in 2013 through health plan adjustments, including changes to pharmacy plans. Some plans will see increased co-pays for doctor’s office and/or emergency room visits.
The 2013 maximum annual contribution by the school district for medical plans will be based upon the district’s 2013 Blue Shield Preferred Provider Organization plan rates (the most expensive plan), as adjusted by the cost containment changes in the above paragraph. This means that TALB members will continue to see no payroll deductions for health care premiums in 2013, regardless of which health plan they select. Aside from Blue Shield PPO, the school district also offers the choice of Blue Shield HMO and Kaiser health plans.
TALB and the school district have tentatively agreed on how to handle escalating health care costs in future years. The parties agreed that the school district’s maximum contributions for medical premiums would be set at 100 percent of the 2013 PPO rates for employee, employee plus one, and family. The school district contribution will then increase by 3.5 percent on January 1, 2014, and will then automatically increase by 3.5 percent every year thereafter.
Starting on Jan. 1, 2014, if the rate increase is greater than 3.5 percent, the employee will pay the difference. In the event that the rate increase is less than 3.5 percent, the difference is then credited to mitigate increases in future years.
A joint Health Benefits Committee will work to mitigate any cost increases for employees and the school district by considering plan design changes, provider selection, and wellness programs, and by educating employees.
“We’re pleased to announce this tentative agreement, which preserves affordable, high quality health care for our teachers, nurses and librarians,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser. “At the same time, we commend union leadership for agreeing to a collaborative method of controlling long-term costs. This is a fair deal that maintains our school district’s competitive salary and benefits package.”
TALB and the school district also agreed to a plan to prevent the closure of LBUSD’s Head Start early childhood program. While the Board of Education has approved a budget reduction that would eliminate the district’s Head Start program next school year, the tentative agreement calls for a shorter work year for Head Start teachers, making the program fiscally viable once more. This school year, Head Start will reduce teachers’ work year by five days, from 193 to 188. The following school year will be reduced by six more days, from 188 to 182. School district staff will recommend that the school board keep the program intact rather than eliminate it next school year.